World News

Culture

 

British Queen celebrates

Comment

 

Business Secretary Vince Cable has pledged to take "robust action" on the "scandalous" and "completely unjustified" payouts by banks in Britain.

The Liberal Democrat MP vowed to press ahead with plans to curb City worker's lavish pay and bonuses, despite fears that many financial firms could relocate abroad as a result.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, he said: "The banks shouldn't underestimate our determination to act. They are deluding themselves, really seriously deluding themselves, if they believe the Government is not going to take this seriously."

A defiant Mr Cable insisted he would not be blackmailed by bank bosses threatening to move their bases to more favourable tax regimes, passing some threats off as "not credible".

He also indicated he would accept some firms leaving if it meant a fairer and more stable banking system.

"We're not going to be bullied. I meet all kinds of companies who say, 'give us something or we'll go somewhere else', but you can't just give in the whole time," he said.

"We don't want to lose firms from the UK. But you're dealing with internationally mobile companies and some come and some go."

Chancellor George Osborne and Mr Cable will meet chief executives of the major banks this week for talks in which excessive bonuses and lending to small businesses will be high on the agenda.

Mr Cable said the issue of tackling the culture of secrecy around banking pay would also be discussed.

"We've got to have strong disclosure rules: start shining light on what's actually going on at the top of the leading banking institutions," he added.

 

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.

 

 

Parliament's expenses watchdog has insisted it would not step back from its duty to protect taxpayers' money, after David Cameron backed MPs' complaints about the tough new regime it has introduced.

While expenses rules should be "workable and fair to MPs", the much-criticised Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) said its "overriding responsibility" was not to MPs but to the taxpayers who pay for the system.

Since it took over paying expenses in April, Ipsa has been accused of imposing administrative burdens on MPs and stopping them doing their jobs properly.

The Prime Minister stoked the controversy by branding its rules "anti-family" and warning that it must improve by April or he would force changes.

Mr Cameron's spokesman declined to rule out the option of scrapping the new body, but told reporters: "I don't think we are there yet, I think we need to look at what can be done."

The Government was not setting out a position on how the system should be reformed, which was primarily a matter for Parliament, said the spokesman.

Complaints about the excessive bureaucracy of the new rules on expenses have been voiced by MPs from all parties, including Tory backbenchers who raised the issue with Mr Cameron at a meeting of the 1922 Committee. The PM told them he "recognised that (Ipsa) has caused a lot of pain and difficulty", and criticised the new arrangements. "It is anti-family and it is not acceptable," he said.

According to aides, Mr Cameron said a "better system" needs to be in place by April 1, otherwise it "would be changed".

In a statement, Ipsa said: "When we made the new rules, we gave the public a say in setting them - for the first time ever. And it is worth remembering that all the main parties and political leaders welcomed the rules and the changes we introduced.

"We have a duty to administer a system which is workable and fair to MPs. But we also have an overriding responsibility to the public. We take very seriously the task of trying to restore public confidence in how MPs are supported by the taxpayer. We will not step back from our duties to the public."

 

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved

 

Image

 

Two brothers could have made more than £1 million by misleading thousands of customers into visiting a Lapland-style theme park, a court has heard.

Visitors to Lapland New Forest were offered a winter wonderland with snow-covered log cabins, a nativity scene, husky dogs, polar bears and other animals, as well as a bustling Christmas market.

Instead of the promised magical festive treat, visitors experienced fairy lights hung from trees and a broken ice rink.

Within days of the attraction opening in November 2008, hundreds of disgruntled visitors to the park on the Hampshire-Dorset border complained to trading standards they had been ripped off, Bristol Crown Court heard.

Less than a week later the attraction closed, with the theme park's owners blaming the media and sabotage from "New Forest villains" for the decision.

With visitors charged £30 a ticket and with up to 10,000 advance bookings online, the owners were set to make £1.2 million, prosecutor Malcolm Gibney told the court.

The two men behind Lapland New Forest, brothers Victor and Henry Mears, faced a jury accused of eight charges of selling misleading advertising.

The brothers face five charges of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading action and three charges of engaging in a commercial practice which is a misleading omission.

Victor Mears, 67, of Selsfield Drive, and Henry Mears, 60, of Coombe Road, both of Brighton, deny all the charges.

The court heard that Victor Mears was the company's sole director but was being assisted by his younger brother, who was managing Lapland, and was responsible for the promotion of the event.

 

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved

 

 

Drilling company Transocean had an incident on one of its North Sea rigs similar to the problem which caused the biggest oil spill in US history earlier this year, it has emerged.

Transocean was operating BP's Deepwater Horizon rig when it suffered a blow-out, killing 11 workers and releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

An internal company report obtained by the BBC shows that four months before the US disaster the Sedco 711 rig in the North Sea, which is leased by Shell and operated by Transocean, experienced similar problems.

In this case, however, the blow-out preventer - which is believed to have failed on the Deepwater Horizon - worked effectively, preventing oil and gas from spurting uncontrolled up the rig's pipe.

The incident on December 23 2009 was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive and Transocean drew up an internal report.

Oil expert Dr Greville Williams of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, who has seen the report, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is the story of a blow-out occurring during a completion exercise. They had drilled the well, they had got the end of the pipe sorted out.

"What's happened is that the flow valve at the bottom looks like it has been unseated during operations. When they started to displace the mud which is holding the reservoir back, the pressure started to move that mud and sea-water back up the column. That's the blow-out starting to happen."

Dr Williams said the report showed that key indicators that something was going wrong were misinterpreted or discounted, while undue weight was given to a positive pressure test at the base of the well.

"It seems to me from this that they were accepting that they didn't do enough pressure testing of the flow control valve and probably didn't allow for more than one barrier to prevent the reservoir from communicating," he said. "Normally, you would like to have at least two, but they were relying at this point on one barrier."

In a statement, Transocean told the BBC: "Any (safety-) related events that occur on a rig anywhere in the world, including the one on December 23 2009, are immediately reported to management, fully investigated and the valuable information gleaned from that investigation is used to improve existing safety systems across the fleet."

 

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved

 

 

The RSPCA has challenged a ruling which overturned a will leaving it a £2 million estate.

University lecturer Christine Gill, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire, won a High Court battle last year to overturn the will which left her parents' 287-acre farm to the charity.

In a ruling given in Leeds, a judge found that Dr Gill's "domineering" father had coerced her mother into making the will.

But the findings of Judge James Allen QC have been appealed against by the RSPCA during proceedings before the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, sitting with Lord Justice Lloyd and Lord Justice Jackson in London.

Elspeth Talbot Rice QC, for the RSPCA, told the court that one of the issues for decision was whether the judge was "wrong to find that Mr Gill unduly influenced Mrs Gill into executing her will". Another question was whether the judge was "wrong to find that Mrs Gill knew and approved of her will".

Judge Allen said it would be "unconscionable" if Dr Gill did not inherit Potto Carr Farm, near Northallerton, where she voluntarily helped out during her spare time over a period of more than 30 years.

Mr Gill died in 1999, aged 82. It was only when her mother died in 2006, also aged 82, that Dr Gill saw the will, in which her parents had left the farm to each other and then to the RSPCA when both died.

The judge found that Dr Gill's mother had wanted her daughter to inherit the farm but Mr Gill - who he described as a "bully" - had exerted pressure over his wife to favour the RSPCA.

The appeal is being closely watched by other charities who say they are "very concerned at its possible implications for the charity sector".

The RSPCA said in a statement: "The Gills had already provided substantially for their daughter during their lifetime, which included a large contribution towards the purchase of the farmhouse in which she now lives. The RSPCA carefully considered the merits of its action before taking the decision to defend Dr Gill's claims and subsequently to appeal in order to honour Mrs Gill's wishes."

 

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2010, All Rights Reserved.

 

 

The new head of the country's biggest trade union has launched an angry attack against the Government for "dismantling the very fabric of society" and pledged to lead a resistance to the massive spending cuts now costing thousands of jobs.

Len McCluskey, who was elected general secretary of Unite, said he also wanted to make his union more effective and united after years of having two leaders and suggestions that the organisation had been "divided".

He told the Press Association that Unite would play a central role in fighting the spending cuts, but he added that this was a "watershed moment" for the TUC.

"Union membership has fallen from 13 million to 6.5 million over the past 20 years and if the TUC does not demonstrate its importance to ordinary members, people will start to question its relevance.

"The TUC has to make certain that we co-ordinate the anger that is now building up against what the Government is doing. The very fabric of our society is being dismantled before our very eyes and we have a duty to lead a resistance against this attack. It is slaughter by stealth."

 

People from outside England believe that London is an expensive place to visit. This is a fallacy. London's 240 major museums and art galleries offer free admission. Here's a list of the best of the big names you can visit for free all year round. There are lots of free museums and galleries in London, from the large-scale to the single room type. This list also focuses on the best of the small free London museums that are certainly worth a visit.

Bank of England Museum

The Bank of England Museum tells the story of the Bank of England from its foundation in 1694 to its role today as the United Kingdom's central bank.

British Museum

  • Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms

Courtauld Gallery

The Courtauld Gallery is displayed in Somerset House, a stunning 18th century Neoclassical palace. The Courtauld Gallery's art collection covers the 14th century up to today.

Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery - Free on Mondays

The Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery at Somerset House in London is free every Monday from 10am to 2pm.

Geffrye Museum

The Geffrye Museum in east London gives an insight into how Londoners have lived over the years. It's a museum of English domestic interiors and has room sets from 1600 right up to today.

Grant Museum of Zoology

The Grant Museum of Zoology has about 55,000 specimens, covering the whole Animal Kingdom. It's small and spooky and lots of fun, and it's free so you can pop in regularly.

  • HMS Belfast – 258,941

Horniman Museum

Hunterian Museum

The Hunterian Museum is at the Royal College of Surgeons in London. The Museum is inspired by the life and work of the surgeon John Hunter (1728-1793).

Imperial War Museum

The Imperial War Museum is unique in its coverage of conflicts, from the First World War to the present day. It seeks to provide for, and to encourage, the study and understanding of the history of modern war and how it affects our lives.

L. Ron Hubbard's Fitzroy House

Fitzroy House, in the 1950s, was the London home and office of L. Ron Hubbard the founder of Dianetics and Scientology. The public can visit for free and see the restored building and exhibits of his life and works.

Library and Museum of Freemasonry

The Library and Museum of Freemasonry in London contains an extensive collection of objects with Masonic decoration including pottery and porcelain, glassware, silver, furniture and clocks, jewels and regalia.

Museum of Childhood

Find out about the Museum of Childhood including history, contact details, and a review.

Museum in Docklands

 

Museum of London

National Army Museum

The National Army Museum has five floors of exhibits showing the history of the British Army and its impact on others. There are four permanent gallery displays and an extensive program of exhibitions, events, and activities.

National Gallery Visitor Information

The National Gallery in London takes up the entire north side of Trafalgar Square. Its masterpieces include: Botticelli, Titian, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Hogarth, and Gainsborough. Here's all the information you need to plan your visit.

Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum is one of the big three museums in South Kensington, London. It is a wonderful Victorian building housing the weird and wonderful of the natural world. World famous for its dinosaur skeletons.

  • National Maritime Museum – 1,765,814

  • National Portrait Gallery – 1,645,680

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology has 80,000 objects but only has space to display a small percentage. They welcome children and have activities available.

Prince Henry's Room and Samuel Pepys Exhibition

Prince Henry's Room in Fleet Street is one of the few houses in London which survived the Great Fire of London in 1666.

Royal Institution

It's free to visit so find what to see at the Royal Institution in London.

Saatchi Gallery

The Saatchi Gallery moved to its new home in Chelsea in 2008. The 70,000 sq.ft. gallery in the Duke of York HQ building on King's Road, Chelsea offers free admission to all shows as part of the Saatchi Gallery's aim to bring contemporary art to the widest audience possible. Plus you're allowed to photos everywhere in the building.

Science Museum

The Science Museum was founded in 1857 with objects shown at the Great Exhibition held in the Crystal Palace. The permanent displays are free and they have exceptional temporary exhibitions for all the family.

Sir. John Soane's Museum

Sir John Soane was an architect and avid collector of antiquities and art. He merged 3 houses on Lincoln's Inn Fields to be his home and museum which he left to the nation in 1837.

Smythson of Bond Street

Smythson of Bond Street is a luxury stationers and leather goods retailer and their main store is on Bond Street in London. At the back of the store there's a small museum, which though small, is worth seeing.

Tate Britain Visitor Information

Tate Britain is the national gallery of British art from 1500 to today. Each room is organized around a theme. Displays change regularly.

Tate Modern Guide

Tate Modern is the UK national gallery of modern art from 1900 onwards. Tate Modern is housed on a converted power station next to the River Thames, opposite St. Paul's Cathedral.

Theatre Museum

  • V&A Museum of Childhood

  • Victoria and Albert Museum

The Vault

The Vault is the rock memorabilia museum in the shop at the Hard Rock Cafe in London.

The Wallace Collection

The Wallace Collection in London is a national museum displaying eighteenth and nineteenth century European paintings and French objets d'art.

Wellcome Collection

Wellcome Collection is a modern museum and gallery bringing together science and art. Sir Henry Wellcome enthusiastically collected over a million medical objects and Wellcome Collection displays as many as possible to help visitors discover more about the development of medicine through the ages and across cultures.

Whitechapel Bell Foundry Museum

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry made the Big Ben bell for the Houses of Parliament and the original Liberty Bell. They have a free museum you can visit on weekdays to find out more.

 

I recently did an article on the phenomenal rate at which the London property market is growing. It seems this latest trend of growth just continues to gain more and more momentum as the months pass by and London properties for sale are now on average more expensive than properties in Monte Carlo, making prime property the most expensive of its kind in the world!

The study carried out by a London estate agent has revealed that a London property that costs around the £5 million mark is currently being sold at a rate of about £4000 per square foot of property. This is significantly more than Monaco which is second on the list and selling property at an average of £2190 per square foot of property. To give you an idea of how expensive this is, picture a normal sized walk-in closet in central London. At a price tag of £4000 per square foot of property, you could by a 3 bedroom house in the North of England for the same price as a walk in closet in central London.

A house in Belgravia was recently sold for a phenomenal London property sale of £30 million. If that sounds like a lot, it's still nothing in comparison to a London property which is owned by steel tycoon, Lakshmi Mittal. The 12 bedroom property situated in Kensington Palace Gardens is rumoured to be worth more than £100 million.

The current rate at which the property market is growing is the fastest in 30 years. Estate Agent Clapham North has been part of the research which has revealed that people who live in prime areas such as Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge and Hampstead are currently earning more than £4000 per day on their London properties.

The current growth in the London property market is expected to stabilize in the middle parts of the year and then regaining pace again towards the end of the year. This is all good and well for the London market, however there are still serious concerns about the rest of the country's property as there is not much growth showing in other parts of England. The average price for a property for sale in London is about £350,000 whereas the average price of property in the North East is less than half of that at £129,000. Let's hope the London property industry is able to carry the weight of the entire country!

 

I heard a rumour that the global recession is slowly becoming less of an issue as the world economic climate seems to be recovering ever so slightly form a terrible year in 2009. The London property market was one of the worst hit areas in the UK and now I'm wondering whether or not the property market will be recovering with the rest of the world's financial situation. I did some research and found that the influencing factors sway from negative to positive in a seesaw kind of pattern, each positive balanced out by a negative. Take a look:

The UK as a whole is definitely recovering from a tough 2009. Most businesses around the country are starting to recover and their employees are starting to have a little bit more money to spend each month due to a general drop in retail prices. However the unemployment rate in the UK is still continuing to rise which means just because companies and their employees have a little more money, jobs are still scarce as companies are hesitant to start hiring too soon. Unemployment rate is one of the major factors that affect London property prices will have a slight negative effect on London property prices.

 


The guttering on a property is actually an integral part of a building and should be well looked after. Of all of the elements, water is the most detrimental to any building, whether it be a home or business and guttering helps keep the property protected. Investing in a proper set of guttering will stand you and your building in good stead. It is not always easy to know what is available and which types of gutters commonly found in the UK are the best choice for you or your property.